Businessman Yifei Sheng bought the sprawling property and neighboring tennis court in September last year for $ 10.25 million without ever setting foot inside.
Sheng, who intends to build the four-bedroom, 440-square-meter house, has spent at least $ 22 million buying properties in Auckland over the past three years.
A law firm representing Sheng said he had never met the woman living in his house in Remuera – Annie Shiu, also known as Xiaoling Chen – and that he had “no knowledge of her. business ”.
But the Herald can reveal that the Remuera property isn’t the only luxury mansion connecting the pair.
Real estate records show Chen, 51, and her estranged husband Andrew Shiu sold their old clifftop home on Glendowie’s blue chip Riddell Rd in Sheng in 2019 for $ 9 million – reported as one of the biggest real estate transactions of the year.
Barely 15 months later, Sheng sold the house – again for $ 9 million – to Yongming Wu.
Both sales were off-market, meaning no licensed real estate agent was involved and neither transaction appears to have required a mortgage.
And despite the purchase of Glendowie’s property by Sheng and Wu for $ 9 million, neither man appears to have taken possession of it.
Until recent weeks, Chen continued to live there with her daughters and elderly parents – two years after she and her husband sold the house.
This Glendowie home on Bluechip Riddell Rd has changed hands three times in the past few years, twice for $ 9 million. (Photo / Dean Purcell)
They only moved shortly before Chen was convicted last month on two deception charges after being convicted of defrauding real estate investors of $ 600,000 in connection with a land development. multi-million dollar Waikato.
The Herald learned that she then moved through town to settle in Sheng’s house in Remuera, which offers stunning views of the Orakei Basin and Rangitoto Island, where she is currently serving a nine-year sentence. months of house arrest.
The spate of real estate deals caught the attention of a curious industry insider, who referred the matter to financial crime detectives late last year.
Correspondence seen by the Herald shows that Detective Inspector Craig Hamilton, who heads the police asset recovery units, passed the information on to investigators in Auckland.
But the Herald understands that no arrests were made and the case was closed, with no evidence of wrongdoing.
Chen and her estranged husband own another home at Arney Rd in Remuera worth $ 4.4 million, a Remuera nursing home with a listed CV of $ 7.8 million, and a Papakura investment house.
Xiaoling Chen, alias Annie Chen, was sentenced by Manukau District Court to nine months house arrest and 150 hours of community service for defrauding real estate investors of $ 600,000. (Photo / Supplied)
She declined to comment and hung up when approached by the Herald.
Her husband did not respond.
Sheng also owns a property at Epsom’s Gillies Rd worth nearly $ 5 million, according to property records.
Neither he nor Wu appear in the Societies Office searches. The Herald was unable to contact Wu.
A former owner who sold Remuera’s property to Sheng confirmed that the wealthy mansion lover had never personally visited the house before agreeing to pay $ 10.25 million.
She thought it was strange that someone would pay so much money for a house without setting foot there.
She remembers a representative telling her that Sheng “didn’t see the place because he can’t get a visa.”
Bayley’s agent Gary Wallace, who helped negotiate the sale of Remuera to Sheng, said he had never met the wealthy businessman and dealt only with “middlemen”.
Wallace learned that Sheng lived in Singapore, was linked to Alibaba and associated with Chinese business tycoon Jack Ma, co-founder and former executive chairman of the Alibaba Group.
He understood that Sheng owned other properties around Auckland.
“That’s what I was told. ‘They have set aside land here in New Zealand. They’ve bought quite a few high-end properties so there’s no problem being able to buy. “
Wallace said his team regularly wondered whether a foreign buyer could legally buy New Zealand property since the Labor government introduced the ban on foreign buyers.
Anyone from Singapore was exempt due to a pre-existing free trade agreement.
Bayley’s agent Gary Wallace understood the buyer lived in Singapore, was linked to Alibaba and associated with Chinese business mogul Jack Ma. (Photo / File)
“When you are dealing with these Asians [buyers], especially at the top, sometimes you don’t know who you are dealing with. It’s quite fascinating. We can only ask so many questions because we represent our supplier.
“The key thing for us is A, they are legitimate, they can pay for the purchase and they have the funds to do it. Other than that, sometimes it’s smoke and mirrors. “
The Overseas Investment Office declined to say whether it was aware of the sequence of sales or to comment on the eligibility status of individuals to purchase New Zealand land.
Auckland law firm Carson Fox, which represents Sheng, said, “He did not meet Ms. Chen and before receiving a copy of your email had no knowledge of her affairs. “
When asked how this was possible while living in her two homes, the firm replied, “Our client does not wish to comment further. He didn’t do anything illegal. “
Chen has been charged with deception after telling buyers of a Pokeno real estate development program that they had to pay $ 100,000 in cash, in addition to the purchase price, as a commission to ensure that the transactions are concluded.
But a judge found out that she illegally pocketed the money, claiming her offense was motivated by greed.
“Your motivation was indeed to defraud for your own benefit two people whom you knew socially through the Chinese community of Auckland and that, of course, was not only unfair, it was morally and legally reprehensible,” he said. said Judge Peter Rollo.
Chen’s former home on Riddell Rd was empty when the Herald visited last month. Neighbors said she told them the property was sold.